Manchester United vs Liverpool: Match Preview

The greatest rivalry in Premier League history is once again set to commence. There are no titles involved or silverware for the taking, but three points will be vital for the visiting team who are striving for a top four finish.
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Liverpool will face their bitter rivals in a tie which actually means more in terms of points for The Reds, rather than Manchester United. How the tides have turned.

United are too far away in terms of their own pursuit of Manchester City in the Premier League title race; their only real aim domestically is securing second place. 

This will of course be progress and improvement for Ole and his boys after finishing in third place and 33 points behind the league winners last season (that was Liverpool, in case you needed reminding.)

Premier League trophy

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifting the Premier League trophy

Jurgen Klopp’s men sit in sixth position in the league, four points behind fourth place Chelsea after failing to hold on to their leads in their previous two matches against both Leeds and Newcastle, dropping four points in the process. 

Points at this stage are vital in the pursuit of Champions League football next season and whilst Liverpool have a fairly favourable run after this fixture, a loss here may leave Liverpool with too much ground to make up, especially given Chelsea play Fulham at home on Saturday.

The latest battle in long war between England’s most successful clubs will reignite again this Sunday, and it is all to play for.

The clubs have 39 league titles, 19 FA Cups and nine Champions Leagues shared between them, and although this upcoming game may not be for silverware, a win could be just as important for Liverpool’s future as any other game involving the two giants of English football.

Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk

Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool Team News

The biggest news regarding Klopp's selection will be the availability of Nat Phillips, who has been missing for the past few games with a hamstring injury, forcing Fabinho to drop back in to defensive duties alongside Ozan Kabak.

Klopp has commented that there are no new updates on Nat Phillips, suggesting he will not be available for the match in Manchester.

Although Fabinho has flourished in his role at centre-back and has been composed and commanding, Liverpool sorely miss his protective anchor-like qualities in the defensive midfield role he is accustomed to playing.

‘When you're a Liverpool player or manager, this is the game. A lot of things can happen, we just need to make sure we are ready!'

Jurgen Klopp on the upcoming game this Sunday

Without him in the midfield the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Georginio Wijnaldum and Curtis Jones are not able to shine as brightly as they usually do with the Brazilian sitting and securing in the six.

Klopp has commented that there are no new updates on Nat Phillips, suggesting he will not be available for the match in Manchester.

The minutes keep accumulating for the inexorable flying Scotsman, Andy Robertson. The Liverpool left-back has played an astonishing 2,934 minutes of Premier League football this season, featuring in all 33 games so far this campaign. 

Kostas Tsimikas is in training but with so few games to go and so much on the line, you would expect so see Robertson continue his run of games for Liverpool until the end of the season.

Thiago Alcantara between Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp. 

Thiago Alcantara between Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp. 

Georginio Wijnaldum, Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones, James Milner, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all candidates to play in the Liverpool midfield against Manchester United.

Last week Klopp opted to play a double pivot featuring Thiago and Wijnaldum, allowing the front four to partake against Newcastle last weekend. Unless The Reds boss choses to do the same again, it is expected those named two to play once again with the addition of James Milner or Curtis Jones the only likely players who would feature in a three man midfield.

Jordan Henderson is also out and in his press conference on Friday, Klopp did not give any updates on the Liverpool captain. 

The main man for Manchester United, Bruno Fernandes, will need to be stopped. The is no doubt about his qualities but Fernandes sometimes does have a tendency to go missing in the ‘bigger games’. 

In the reverse of this fixture (a dull and uninspiring 0-0 draw) Fernandes gave away the ball 19 times and only managed to complete 18 passes. The Portuguese star has 16 goals and 11 assists in the league this season, but only has registered two goals against ‘top six’ opposition (both penalties).

Klopp could indeed once more enable the double pivot to suppress the supply to the number 18 playmaker. As seen before in the games where Fernandes fails, United seem to struggle.

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes will be key in Liverpool's pursuit of three points. 

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes will be key in Liverpool's pursuit of three points. 

The front four were threatening and exhilarating at times in the first half last weekend, but they seemed to run out of steam after the first 45. The Liverpool forwards were punished by poor finishing and really should have been home and dry by half time. Mohamed Salah registered another goal to take his seasons total tally to 20 in the league, becoming the first Liverpool player to score 20+ goals in three seasons for The Reds. The Egyptian King is one goal behind golden boot leader, Harry Kane.

'We don't score often enough, but we create a decent number so that is what we keep doing.'

Klopp on the lack of goals this season

Liverpool had 22 shots at goal against Newcastle and 17 against Leeds, but only managed to score two goals. The forwards have carried this Liverpool team to great feats and have been wonderfully terrifying for opponents throughout Klopp’s tenure, but the goals seem to have dried up. 

If Liverpool are to get anything out of this game, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota will need to be at their best, especially after United hit six past Roma on Thursday night. Goals may very well be needed in abundance. 

Diogo Jota will need to get back to his best if Liverpool have a chance at beating United. 

Diogo Jota will need to get back to his best if Liverpool have a chance at beating United. 

Manchester United Team News

Fresh off the back of an impressive 6-2 win in the Europa League semi-final, Manchester United are flying high; how it pains me to write those words. 

United were clinical and at their best with the goals shared amongst the attack and midfield at Old Trafford in midweek and will be looking to build momentum to the end of the season and hopefully (for them at least) secure some much needed silverware.

The Red Devils rotated their team to a slight degree in the week, and even had the luxury of taking off Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Fred after securing the emphatic win.

United have a vast squad to choose from at the weekend. It would have been better for Liverpool if United had drawn or lost the game against Roma. Ole Gunnar Solskjær may have rested some players for the return leg next week, but alas, it seems Liverpool will face the full force of The Red Devils.

Paul Pogba has been operating on the left side of midfield, an area which will be defended and attacked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah. That particular battle could prove pivotal in the match, especially if TAA is attacking and Pogba is looking to expose the space left behind when Trent goes forward, or indeed expose his own flank in behind should he not defend.

Paul Pogba will face off against Trent Alexander-Arnold

Paul Pogba will face off against Trent Alexander-Arnold

United themselves often play a double pivot too; you would expect the withdrawal of Fred in the game against Roma would indicate that he will feature against Liverpool. 

Fred and McTominay/Matic will be charged with trying to cut down the attack from Liverpool and eliminate the build up play from Thiago in particular, whilst creating their own attacks from the heart of midfield. 

Edinson Cavani has been somewhat of a revelation this season. The Uruguayan notched a further two goals on Thursday night and the veteran striker has a total of eight goals in the league and three from the Europa League. His aerial threat will pose a problem, especially if the Bolton Baresi Nat Phillips, is still sidelined.

Trent Alexander-Arnold receiving water during a match at Anfield. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold receiving water during a match at Anfield. 

Mason Greenwood has three goals in his last four league outings and was amongst the goals on Thursday night too. The young Englishman will be hungry to torment Liverpool and stake a place amongst Southgate’s squad for the European Championships this summer.

Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will have to be on their finest form at the back to eliminate the movement and speed in which the Liverpool front four are renowned for. Eric Bailly may be rotated in to offer United the pace and speed Maguire and Lindelof lack.

If Lindelof and Maguire do indeed play, Klopp et al. must seek to lay bare the unhurried duo.

Match Facts

  • Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have shared the spoils between them in their last five meetings. Klopp has one victory to his name over his managerial foe, Solskjaer also has one win. The other three games were drawn.
  • Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has the most goals as a Liverpool player against united with nine goals, Sadio Mane is the closest to that tally with four goals.
  • There has been nothing between these sides of late, with the last 10 meetings producing two Liverpool wins, two United victories and six stalemates.
Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp looks on at Anfield

Summary

Long gone are the days where we saw Mo Salah sprint across half of the length of the pitch and coolly slot the ball past a flailing De Gea whilst Daniel James struggled to keep up with the Liverpool man. 

The 2-0 win at Anfield last season resulted in The Kop bellowing ‘we’re gonna win the league!’ after the sensational breakaway goal, and win the league Liverpool did.

The heights and expectations on Liverpool this season has no doubt not been met. Yes, the Anfield faithful may point at long and extensive injuries to superstars and mainstays such as Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, but Liverpool have had their chances to capitalise in the race for the top four.

For The Reds of Merseyside, Champions League qualification would be considered a success this season, given the one Liverpool have endured. Jurgen Klopp stated in the last game that Liverpool ‘didn’t deserve Champions League football next season,’ an admission which perhaps cannot be argued.

There is no doubt Liverpool need the points given the fact there is only five league games left of the season. The total number of points The Reds can accumulate are running out.

Alisson Becker and David de Gea meet post match

Alisson Becker and David de Gea meet post match

Manchester United on the other hand are flying high. Whilst Solskjaer may be able to break his duck and finally win some silverware in terms of a Europa League, the holy grail of the Premier League title looks insurmountable, for this season at least.

The stakes are once again high in this upcoming encounter: for Liverpool, a loss here would have huge implications on their hunt to chase down the pack above them. In contrast, Manchester United are only a few points away from securing their own Champions League qualification with games to spare.

The dramatic shift in power between Liverpool and Man United this season compared to seasons past acts as a microcosm to the enigmatic and unpredictable 12 months the world has had to tolerate.

I for one, can’t wait to be back to regular service resuming once again. Here’s to hoping that next season, Liverpool get back on their oh-so famous perch once again.